We almost made it to March and managed to avoid the dreaded sports programmer vs. cable provider story. Well, that is until now. This is not the typical network vs. provider dispute where negotiations go to the midnight hour and a signal is about to be pulled. This is about sports programming costs and it involves Fox Sports 1 and AT&T U-Verse.

If you’re a subscriber to U-Verse, you’ll still be able to watch Fox Sports 1, but when certain events go live, it means that you’ll be blacked out. So what events are in dispute? We have the  list below:

  • 9 NASCAR Xfinity Series races;
  • 17 Big East regular season and tournament basketball games;
  • 8 USGA events including the first two rounds of the men’s U.S. Open in June;
  • Several MLS matches including the All-Star Game; and
  • U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Soccer team matches

Now why do these events cost extra? It’s because they were not included when AT&T signed its original carriage agreement for Fox Sports 1. Since Fox Sports 1 began in 2013, it’s obtained the rights to NASCAR Xfinity and Sprint Cup races, the FIFA World Cup, MLS, the USGA contract and the FIFA World Cup.

When the aforementioned events air on Fox Sports 1, AT&T will make the channel go dark preventing viewers from watching them live.

Both AT&T and Fox have released dueling statements on this issue. First, AT&T:

“Fox Sports 1 is asking AT&T to pay additional fees for the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Big East Basketball Games, as well as U.S. Golf Association tournaments. While it’s important to us that we provide our customers with the content they want, we don’t believe that it is reasonable to pass on the added costs of carrying this programming to our customer. Our strategy has always been to carry the sports our customers want most, but only through fair deals for our customers and our business. We won’t agree to a deal that would cause our customers to pay unreasonable rates.”

And this is what Fox Sports is saying about the dispute:

“AT&T U-verse’s current agreement with FOX Sports 1 does not cover dozens of live sporting events on the channel beginning with tomorrow’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race from Atlanta.  Other events that may not air are 8 additional NASCAR XFINITY series races, 17 Big East Conference basketball games (including all men’s tournament games), many Major League Soccer and US Men’s and Women’s National Team soccer matches, and 8 USGA events including rounds 1 and 2 of the US Open. While FOX Sports 1 attempts to negotiate an agreement that extends to these events, we must prepare AT&T U-verse subscribers for the possibility that they may not be able to see these events on the channel. U-verse subscribers are encouraged to reach out to AT&T to request all FOX Sports 1 programming.”

If Fox and AT&T don’t hash out an agreement by tomorrow, the blackout will begin with Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race from Atlanta.

As usual, we’ll monitor the story.

[Variety]

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.